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Rajan Sambandam

Unknown Unknowns

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

Let’s pick a topic. Any topic. How much would you say you know on that topic? More than average? How much do you think you need to learn in order to become well-versed on that topic? Not a whole lot? You just may be experiencing what is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is a mental bias that seems to afflict people who are unskilled or not very knowledgeable. They routinely make poor decisions because their lack of competence itself denies them the ability to realize their lack of competence. It happens to a lot of us in certain areas like personal financial planning.

Tagged in: Psychology

There was a fascinating news item today on NPR about the use of text mining to understand something about a person’s private life. Ian Lancashire, Professor of English at the University of Toronto used text mining to study Agatha Christie’s novels. While he has done this with other authors before he came cross something particularly interesting in Agatha Christie’s 73rd novel.

Tagged in: Text Mining

Netflix Rental Patterns

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

Have you ever been curious about the popularity of rental movies by neighborhood? The NY Times graphics department was and they got movie rental data from Netflix for a dozen cities. The result is this very interesting visual.

Tagged in: Movies visualization

Mindful and Heartfelt Choices

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

How do you make choices in your life? Even simple ones like chocolate cake or fruit salad for a snack? Are you completely rational about the process, calculating the costs and benefits properly before choosing (also known as the cognitive approach)? Or are you more likely to go by feel, allowing your emotions to guide the choice (the affective approach)? Traditionally, researchers have favored the rational model, but more recently the emotional side has been getting more attention. Regular folks may even argue that they use both approaches depending on the situation, even though they may not know which one predominates without their knowledge. But can your decision-making process, and thus the choices you make, be influenced by external conditions to the extent that you will switch from one mode to another? That was the question that drove two researchers in their quest to understand the process of making choices.

 

Up North and Down South

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

In casual conversation do you use terms like “Up North” and “Down South”? Why? Is north vertically higher than south? Of course not. It is just a common usage of language that we are used to, right? But does it have any consequences for behavior? Research has shown that people often make mistakes in travel related judgment, especially when estimating time and distance. Research has also shown that people associate vertical position with meaning. For example, people are faster to identify the relationship between words like “basement” and “attic” when the word presentation is consistent with their spatial relationship (“attic” above “basement”). Given all that, is it possible that people may consider traveling north to be longer or costlier or more difficult than south bound travel simply because we think of it as being “up”? That is the research question.

Tagged in: Psychology

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